Politicization is the last refuge of the scoundrel. To “politicize” something — hurricanes, intelligence, science, football, gun violence — is to render it political in a way that distorts its true meaning. That, at least, seems to be the reasoning of those who use the term as an insult: We adhere to pristine, unadulterated facts and call for unity; they politicize those facts for partisan gain and divide us even more.
According to popular lore, part of what made totalitarianism so dangerous was its “politicization of everything,” but Hannah Arendt, who should know, insisted in a 1958 essay that the opposite was true. It is “depoliticization,” she wrote, that “destroys the element of political freedom in all activities”; depoliticization is what makes political action seem futile and moot. To strip an issue of its political dimension is to assume it’s settled or to try to make it so — not by argument, which would be to politicize it, but by blithe dismissal or brute force.